SEVERAL GRADING ERRORS FOUND IN WICOMICO COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
Updated: Aug 14, 2020
A formal complaint was filed with the Maryland State Board of Education on the misreporting and miscalculation of student grades by Wicomico County Public Schools. The MSDE rejected the complaint despite the evidence sent to them. They never filed the complaint in their database. The problem exists until this day.
INDEPENDENT GRADE AUDIT DISCOVERIES - WICOMICO COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS – FOLLETT ASPEN
Final Term Grade in the Aspen Portal is a TEXT field, and does not always match the mathematical grade
While reviewing the grading system in the Aspen Portal, the mathematical grade values did not always add up to support the letter grade. We discovered that faculty have the ability to over-ride the actual term letter grade by entering an alpha character of choice. If a student receives an 89.4 (and the teacher decides to give the student an “A”), they have the ability to do so using the text field. We agree that faculty should have the ability to do this. However, the issue is how it's being done.
The problem comes into play when the numerical values do not support the altered letter grades. The term letter grade should be systematically calculated, and should not be a plain text field that can be manually altered. For example, 80-89.94 should systematically populate a letter grade of “B.” If the teacher determines that the student should receive an “A,” a suggested way to handle this would be to have an identifiable line item such as “TERM ADJUSTMENT” that can be assigned a point value. This would then boost the over-all score to mathematically calculate the next letter grade. From this, one can easily determine what the grade was before and after the addition. Adding this coded line item would work similar to a teacher adding an extra credit line within the Aspen portal. As a result, the objective of adjusting the grade is still met while having the mathematical values to support. We have documented instances of the letter grade being below and above the supported numerical values. We were told that there was a “human error” in entry of the text field letter grade (despite the numerical values).
Academic summary page does not equal the mathematical value of the class details.
On the Academics Summary Page, the Term Performance shows a value. When you click on the actual class (Algebra II for example) the detail of the class is shown, including all assignments, tests, and quizzes. The numerical values that are posted for the grade average do not always match the summary page. For example, Algebra II on the summary page may reflect a 77.2% and when you click on the Algebra II class, it takes you to the class details and the score calculation adds up to 79.6%. This is a very common scenario happening across many records.
Closed term assignments remain “Ungraded,” which affects a student’s final grade.
Several student-completed assignments remain “Ungraded” in the portal after closing of term(s). Although there are no point values calculated into the final grade with ungraded work, failure to grade and record completed work would have resulted in a different grade (+/-). Failure to grade or record completed work is not only a violation of the WCPS grading policy; it results in students having skewed values.
Midterm and Final Exams not visible to parents in the Aspen Portal, but added behind the scenes
WCPS is obstructing the visibility of midterm and final grades in the portal. However, these exam grades are added to the Aspen system back-end and visible to faculty. When a teacher was asked how the final grade was calculated, the teacher said that each term was worth 20% of the total grade, and midterms are worth 10% and final exams are worth 10% to equal 100%. As a result, that leaves a discrepancy of 20% to be tampered /skewed without accountability.
Midterm and final exams should be a descriptive line item with a point value like every other test in the Aspen system. Hiding these figures is unethical, and cannot be mathematically verified. We recommend that the MD Department of Education to mandate that school systems must visibly post midterm and final grades in the Aspen portal.
Classroom statistics removed from the Aspen Portal in order to obstruct accountability and progress.
We noticed that the classroom average statistics (low-median-high) have been removed from the Aspen portal, which was visible prior to the 2017-2018 school year. These invaluable statistics show the performance of the class as a whole, which is necessary in order to track success and be proactive (not reactive). Reasons why the classroom averages are necessary:
If my child does poorly, but the rest of the class does well, I know the problem is my child.
If my child does well, but the rest of the class does not, I might wonder why.
If the entire class has a pattern of A/B performance, but suddenly tanks to E or D performance, that indicates that a problem lies with the teacher or major changes within the classroom environment.
As we are always looking to improve the system, it seems counterproductive to take away the necessary tools that support the success of all. After reading the Wicomico County Public Schools mission statement and policy, we understand that the school system recognizes the importance of transparency. When inquiring about this, their response was that we are not privy to such information (that previously existed in the year before).
Manipulation of the Aspen Portal in order to circumvent the 10-Day WCPS grading policy *
Faculty intentionally manipulated the Aspen Portal in order to circumvent the WCPS grading policy of having to enter data within 10 days by entering “zeros.” Most faculty will enter their lesson plans in advance, which will show the assignments, tests, and quizzes for the term.
Having the lesson plan makes sense, so that you can see what’s going on and what’s to come. There are some faculty that create a basic plan, but refrain from entering all of the assignments/tests. All of the sudden, an assignment will pop up in the portal with an assignment date and due date that could be anywhere from day 9 or 10+ days after the assignment due date. Here are the scenarios of patterns discovered:
1. Exceeding the 10-day window to enter grades as defined in the WCPS grading policy.
2. Entering a value of zero in order to circumvent the flag of the 10-day window.
3. Refraining from entering assignments/quiz/test line items to circumvent 10-day window.
4. Altering assignment due date to fall within the 10-day window (when in fact it’s not).
*[Corrective action was attempted by administration as they agreed to provide professional training to faculty addressing these discovered patterns. We are monitoring the portal over time to see a reduction/elimination of unethical recording activity in the Aspen Portal as a result of the training. The issue is not fully resolved, but there appears to be an improvement in 1st term of 2018].
Manipulation of the 10-Day WCPS grading policy by delaying entry
As a result of exposing the entering of zeros to circumvent the 10-day grading policy by entering zeros, it appears that the previous pattern of zeros has dramatically declined since faculty training. It appears that most existing zeros are a result of students that actually earned a zero for being incomplete. It is still early in the year to know for sure.
Since then, a new pattern has been discovered as of 10/17/2018. The new pattern indicates that the assignments, quizzes, and test line items are not entered until faculty actually grades them. In some cases, this can be several days to weeks later (even after the 10-day grading policy window). This way, the purpose to avoid or delay entry is accomplished without being flagged (similar to the previous method they used). I cannot tell if faculty was trained to do this or if they are doing this on their own in order to stay off the grid to avoid exposure. This practice is far from transparent, and misinforms parents. As a result, parents have no clue what their child has completed, what is due, what is missed, what is to come, etc. This defeats the purpose of having a grading portal available for parents to stay on top of their children.
Closing of the Aspen Portal to make inaccessible to students and parents
WCPS announced the closing the Aspen Portal on June 15, 2018 at 12:00PM on the last day of school, before the school day ended, before final grades were posted, and before report cards were mailed. On this day at 11:00AM, the portal did not have final grades posted, and there were still ungraded assignments outstanding.
This does not provide adequate time to verify the integrity of grades and communicate with faculty. The intention to close the portal has no other purpose but to obstruct. This is blatantly obvious, since the new school year displays last year’s grades as well.
We recommend that the MD Department of Education to mandate that school systems keep the grading portal open and available to parents as long as the student is enrolled in the school system.